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True Confessions… A Sermon Based on Matt 16 (text only)

True Confessions

Matthew 16 13-19

In Jesus Name

May you see revealed to you, the grace, mercy and peace of God the Father, that comes from knowing Jesus, and knowing He is the Anointed One, the Son of God sent to save us!

 The Confession of Peter

The Supreme Court decision on Friday will not change the bottom line of this sermon, it won’t change the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  As the Christ, He  the one chosen and put in place to deliver us from sin.

But the decision on Friday did impact this sermon and what I am going to say.  It did help clarify and focus the message on Peter’s confession, and what it means for us, and to us.

It will help us to know where we stand, what is our confession, what we can rely on, what we can base our life upon.

On Friday and Saturday, I heard over and over a part of our gospel reading quoted over and over.  It was used with the intent to rally the church, to comfort those plagued by anxiety and fear, those feeling hurt and betrayed. It was to rally them, to give them some hope that despite an attack to what they know of life and religion, that God was still in charge.

I also hear it used triumphantly, as some Christians saw the decision as proof that God was blessing their position.

Either way, the confession that everyone pointed to as their hope was this,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

or to hear it the old way,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it!  (KJV)
That the gates of hell can’t stand against the church, is true but it is not why we have hope, they are not the good confession.

This is the conversation that gives us hope

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

and knowing that, trusting in that, making that your rock, your foundation in life, is what matters.

The “other confessions”
The Prophets of Law….
It’s not that they aren’t needed…

When the people of God in Jesus day looked at Jesus, they struggled to figure out who He was.  That is the first question Jesus asks, as he uses the word from which we get logic.  Who do they reason I am?  Not just say as in passing, but when they really think about it.

The answer the apostles gave was John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  Three prophets, three men, it can be said, brought an uncomfortable message of hope in a time where people didn’t want to hear it, yet held out for the hope it offered.

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

Let me say that again,

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

They were hoping for a prophet that would call those sinners back to God.  They were hoping for a change in their society, in their life, and those prophets promised that it was coming…

And just a promise would have been such a great thing, to hope for the fulfillment of the promise was more than they could imagine. Never mind how the fulfillment of the promise would change everything.

Even Peter and the apostles, who had revealed to them by God the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the chosen One, couldn’t understand.

That the gates of hell cannot withstand the church is something really great, really encouraging.

But it is nothing compared to the fulfilled promise, the rock on which we base everything, the true confession we need to understand.
The Confession… the Christ!

Would it have been bad if Jesus was another Jeremiah?  Another Ezekiel? A second John the Baptist?  Perhaps not, and we constantly need people who call us on our own sin.

But even more we need the Christ, the one chosen and anointed to deliver us into the presence of God our Father.

I guess I can put it this way.  Nancy and Bob yesterday celebrated their 50 year reunion.  When they got engaged, it was a good thing.  But imagine if they had remained engaged for the fifty years, never getting married.

That is the difference between being those promised the Christ, somewhere in the future, to those who have a relationship with God the Father, because Jesus came to us.

He came to us, the Anointed, chosen One of God came to us.  Then the Father revealed to us, as Jesus taught, as He healed, as He did miracles, that Jesus was more than just a prophet.  God came to live among us, to give us life, to make us His.  He came to prove to us His love, His commitment to a relationship that would survive our sin.

That is or hope, that is why we have confidence in God.

He is the Christ, the one chosen to deliver us from sin, and into the presence of the Father.  He is our Savior, our Redeemer, the One who Reconciles us to the Father, our Life, the Lord who calls us His beloved, who tells us we are no longer without a home, no longer without a family.

Because of Jesus, we know our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the Universe listens when we talk to Him, when we pray.

He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

And it is as we know this, as we begin to understand the love this takes, the love He has for us, that we see the church being drawn together.  God begins to build His home in us.  His love is so strong, that it can’t stop us from raiding hell, to bring back those who sin has damaged, whom it is broken.

Because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

That is our confession, that is why we have hope, that is why we plead with people to be reconciled to God.  We want them to know that love, that brings a peace that passes understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

A Celtic Advent: Looking at God’s Expectations about Jesus Birth

Devotional Thought of the Day…

 6  I chose you to bring justice, and I am here at your side. I selected and sent you to bring light and my promise of hope to the nations. 7  You will give sight to the blind; you will set prisoners free from dark dungeons.  Isaiah 42:6-7 (CEV)

Tommorow night at Concordia Lutheran Church, we take up again our tradition of mid-week worship services and a meal of fellowship. All are invited as they are every Wednesday Night until Christmas!

We’ve taken a different approach this year, rather than our usual look at how Israel was looking forward to the Messiah.  For that is what Advent is, taking lessings from Israel’s preparation (and lack of preparation) for the arrival of the promised Deliverer, the One chosen by God our Father to free us from the things of life which crush and smother us.  The hope is, learning those lessons, our celebration of Christmas, our understanding of how God the Father kept His promises, will help us prepare for the joyous Day when Christ returns, to bring us into the Father’s presence.

Like I said, this year we are going to look at it a little differently, as we take a Celtic approach to it, and look at the Birth of Christ from God’s view, from what He expected, from what He planned.

To see His joy, as He patiently waited for the right time, as the Father sent messengers to give us inklings of what to expect, as the Son looked through the manger and the muck and crud He would be born to, to the Cross where everything would be cleansed.  As the Holy Spirit would come and breathe life into a spiritually dead people, and bring them to life and make them aware that they walk with God, that they are His people.

In the process, we will see why the angels sang at the birth of this baby, why the lowest of the low went and were the first of the New Testament evangelists, sharing the incredible news that God is with us. We begin to understand why the wisest of the wise would journey, to lay gifts at His feet.  We begin to understand why we sing Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing…

For God so loved the world….

Come join us!

6:30 at Concordia Lutheran Church, 13633 183rd Street, Cerritos, Ca

What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare…

      Mission Briefing #3:

What You Need to Know about Spiritual Warfare

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation 12:7-12

 † In Jesus Name

 

As you encounter the temptations and trials of this life, may you know that God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ covers you with, will sustain you to victory!

 

Our Mission has…

 

This fall, we’ve been focusing on the mission of this church, of the church as a whole.   To do the work that God has planned for our lives, to do the very work Christ commissioned us to do. The work He has started, that we have a part in, as we reveal His love to the world.

Our mission?  To make disciples of people of every ethnicity, as we go about our lives.  To do so by baptizing them, cleansing them of their sin, and teaching them to treasure everything Jesus has taught us.

It is why the church is here, it is why we have a pre-school, it is why we have pastors and teachers and elders.  To reach out to the hurting, to those living in guilt and shame, to those whose lives are locked into destructive ways of life.

That is our job – to reach out to them, with the hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ, and the fact that He is with His people. That He is with you!  The world needs to know that, they desperately need to know His love, His presence, His healing, and His love.

It is our mission; it is why He sends us out where ever we go.  It has been the mission since the day Adam and Eve left the garden.  God gave the mission to Israel as they left Egypt, as they were ruled by judges and kings, and called to repentance by prophets.  It was their mission as they entered captivity, as they were restored to their land, as they waited for the Messiah.

They were to point to the One who was the light for gentiles, the glory of the people Israel.

Today, the readings all deal with opposition to our church’s mission.

For be sure, as we share God’s love with the world – we will face opposition.  A very ticked off and upset opposition.  An opposition whose only mission seems to be to drive a wedge between God and His people…

An opposition that has lost…but even so, won’t give up. For our opposition is demonic.

The Nature of Satan’s Mission…
Satan has a number of names, or descriptions in this passage, each revealing his evil character and the mission that has become his over time.  Scripture calls the dragon, the primeval serpent, the devil, Satan, and the accuser.   SO let us deal with them.

Dragons in Hebrew thought were large serpents, known especially for their patience, and their keen eyesight.  The very root word for them comes from one of the words for sight.  Their tactics were to kill their opponents by finding and striking at their weakest point – and so it is with Satan, as he looks out at our weakness
The primeval serpent did that, finding the perfect way to deceive Eve and tempt Adam.  Working on their pride, and on curiosity, he was able to deceive them into knowing evil, for all they knew before that was good.  He got in and poisoned their relationship with God and with each other. That’s his strategy, to cause division.
He tried that with Job, and even thought Job struggled, Job’s God proved faithful. Which is the point we need so badly to learn!

Devil and devils simply mean those who throw against, basically they are spiritual gossips and mudslingers.  The devils best tool is to bring light on our failures, to show our sins and character weakness. God, don’t you know your favored people, the people you called your own are a bunch of silly sinners?  These people and their pastor, God, don’t you know what they did this week?

Lastly, Satan simply means our Adversary.  The one who opposes us and uses all of His cunning to hurt us, for if he can drive a wedge between us and God, then he is happy, for that is all he can try to do, and even that… is but an illusion.

His Weapon?  Our Failure, our Guilt

You see, Satan’s only weapon is try to deceive us, to literally lead us astray from the love and mercy of God.  He will greatly use temptation, guilt and shame to try and separate us from the love of God.

Which means Satan’s best weapons are our sins, and our weak points where He can tempt us. He wants to uses our failures.  He desires to cause us guilt, to cause us shame, to create an illusion that God does not want to forgive us, or that we do not deserve the love of God, and that we stand condemned.

Because he is no longer in heaven, accusing us before the throne of God, his only option is to work on us, to convince us that God will not fulfill the promise of Christ’s blood, to cover our sin.

This was part of our conversation this week in a college class on the Lord’s Supper.  That we feel guilty when we do not think we feel guilty enough!  When we think our attitude has to be perfect before we can come to church. We have to get our lives in line that we have to become saints prior to coming here, otherwise the roof might fall in, or the apocalypse might happen.

That is Satan’s only goal, to divide us from God, and if God will not listen to his accusations, maybe we will.  Either to his accusations about us, or the gossip that accuses others, both of which can cause division.

But if our prosecutor isn’t there?

 

What we have to remember is the victory is won.  The only judge who can condemn us has determined that Satan’s accusations are not worth listening to, and has tossed the one accusing us out of heaven.  The battle was not some heaven splitting war, it was simply that it was time to stop listening to the accuser.

Because Christ had come.

Because the blood of Christ has covered every sin.

That is the word that we bear witness! This love of God that sent the Son to bear the guilt of every sin! The word that we testify to is His promise to cleanse us of every sin, to unite us to His death, so that we will rise again.

 

Which is why we do not have to cling to life, for we know what death brings.

For our life in Christ means more than our physical life, for one is eternal, and one is passing. Think of it this way… in our baptism we meet Christ in His death, and at our death He meets us again, to bring us life.

Salvation and power and God’s empire have become known to us, for in Christ dieing on the cross, the bonds that hell had on us because of sin were shattered, for the gates of hell cannot ever stand against the revelation of God’s love for us, so clearly revealed in the cross of Christ.

It makes Satan’s role as our accuser meaningless, his accusations in heaven not even being heard.  For in Christ, our names are written in the record of life. If the prosecutor is not there, if the Judge will not listen to him, those who are guilty are freed, declared innocent.

We don’t have to listen to Satan’s charges, we don’t have to pay heed to the illusion of Guilt and shame, the agony of dealing with sin.  We have been declared free in Christ.

That’s why we come to this altar – to be reminded of the blood, to be reminded of that to which we confess, the truth we state when we say, I believe in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who calls us gathers us together.  Satan cannot do a thing about it, for He is powerless.

And knowing this, we live, forgiven in the unsurpassed, indescribable peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN…

New Beginnings….

Discussion Thought of the Day:

16  Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. 17  Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! 18  All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 19  God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.     2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (MSG)

My son starts first grade today…and I am thinking of new beginnings…

Sometimes we fear them, we don’t know what the new teacher will be like, or the new classroom. Sometimes we leap toward the changes, hoping that a new start will make everything right.  The challenge is of course, what we take with us and what we are freed from, that falls, and is left forgotten.

Spiritually, each day and even each moment brings the same kind of new beginnings. We can find everything made new, reconciled, restored to the way in which God would have it, or we can dwell in the past, sure that people don’t change, that our spiritual debts can’t be cancelled, that life just simply trudges on.

The key to negotiating a successful change is not working harder, or promising to change how we do or think.  If we focus on our own efforts, it we look to ourselves and others… then change is destiend to fail.  Change is successful when we look to what Christ has done, when we look to how we are united with Him, how He has given us, really, a complete start…

Enjoy your new day… look at others and see Christ… rejoice in their sins, as well as yours being forgiven…

and if they don’t know this yet… it doesn’t mean that they cannot… for you are there to guide them on the first steps of this new journey…

The Lord’s Supper: A Tangible Invasion of My Darkness…

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Mei...

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day….

I’m GOD’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.” Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. Psalm 30:7 (MSG) 

As I look at this verse, part of the passage I will discuss in this week’s sermon, I think it well describes the life of a Believer.

I think about Elijah, and the drastic change from the man on Mt Carmel, to the man buried in self-pity in a cave a month’s journey away.

Peter comes to mind – at one moment hearing that the words of his mouth was a revelation directly from the Father, to the next, his pride turned to disgrace as the same mouth is confronted as being the adversary to God.  Never mind the night of the last supper, as he goes from correction regarding the foot washing, to the glory of being there for the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, to the failure to stay awake and pray, to the absolute pit of despair as He hears a rooster crow…and realizes how he has failed again… and denied the Messiah, the Savior.

It’s my life – the moments were I am so sure of God’s presence – with which I get to passively participate, to the moments that I question my ability to stand in His presence, because I am confronted with my own failures, my own thoughts and desires, my own sin. I tell you, there are days I wonder if there are any good caves on the market – (suitably furnished with wi-fi and a refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke with lime and some good cotto salami and cheese)  Seriously, there is so much darkness in the world, and in my own life, that I wonder what headway is being made. I wonder if there is anything that will help people… and if I can help them, by God’s mercy, i have some proof of God’s work in my life.

Maybe our lives our like jig-saw puzzles – and it seems when I see the beautiful scene that God has designed coming into focus, someone comes along and tosses all the pieces back in the box.

I know my road may not be as dark as some, and perhaps not as many pieces are thrown in the box (just as I know others who try to comfort themselves with the same thoughts), yet there are times in life where it falls apart, or my mind tries to cope with all the stuff that is flying around me.  It doesn’t matter whether it is my own issues, or those of those I count as my family (which includes family, friends, fellow believers that I work with, and well the people on FB that I correspond with often)  Our pains aren’t individualized ( Romans 12:15-16)  we share them – and the burdens can add up. And when we realize we don’t see God, everything falls apart…. breaks up,… our anxieties build, and..

It is dealing with such things – that I’ve come, more and more, to appreciate the Lord’s Supper, the feast were we Commune with God, what we call the Eucharist, or the Sacrament of the Altar.  A piece of bread, a sip of wine, these things we eat and drink, that tangibly invade my darkness, my place where I am broken, among people who are broken….

For the bread and wine aren’t just empty carbs, they are the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under that bread and wine.  He is present, tangibly, His holiness, His mercy, His love.

That which is broken, He’s come to repair, that which is hurt, is healed, the pieces are picked up, the tears are dried off, the cold darkness replaced by His warmth and life  and …..glory.   Yes – by His glory.

For He is here….  comforting us and causing us to realize in that moment, that He always was… He will always will be.

Some have talked about how the Lord’s Supper is something that recharges them, that lifts them up… I think the reason why is simple  – it calls us to interact with God in a… well,,. supernatural, divine way. A way that reminds us of the transformation, the very work of Christ in our lives.  It calls us to remember the promises, the mercy – but most of all – it recenters us on His presence……

May we always treasure this celebration, and give thanks and praise to the One who is our gift, our grace.

The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand….those standing firm in Christ!

“The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand Us”

Ephesians 6:10-20

 

†  In Jesus Name †

As we are engaged in spiritual battle, may we find the strength, and His might, which enables us to focus, not on the Evil, but on His Love and Mercy!  AMEN!

 

St. Peter’s Confession!

         

In one of his better moments, right after putting one foot in his mouth and perhaps seconds before placing the other one there, St Peter proclaims to Jesus (and to the others) “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:16 (NLT)

Jesus response there in Matthew’s gospel affirms Peter’s words.

16:17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter which means ‘rock’, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it. Matthew 16:17-19  (adapted from NLT/ESV)
We shared this same hope we in the words of the Nicene Creed, They remind us that we are in a spiritual war, that we were once hostages that were rescued by Jesus, that there are still many that need to be rescued, and the gates of hell are powerless against the cry of faith in God.

It is a spiritual war, and spiritual warfare, though simple in words never seems to be so easy.

Most people, facing spiritual warfare and our epistle today take one of two actions.  One they see themselves as a spiritual super-hero, Captain America or Superman – ready to take on the world if need be!  Or having common sense, they run faster than the Enterprise going into warp

Often, we come often back from such spiritual warfare bruised and battered, as I have to admit, I did this week. The challenge is to realize that taking such a beating…isn’t always a bad thing.  For it drives us to Jesus…

A Confession of Failure

As Vicar Mark and I went to St. Louis this week, we had some incredible moments.  Some of the lessons were great, as we heard that the seminary process is as much about forming Mark as a pastor, not just a theologian.  They left him a bit in awe, and somewhat in fear of the next four year’s work they demand.  They did the same for us “mentors”. They told us of the burden we will bear – opening our lives us to share and model and help mold th making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

em as men of God, as leaders of their church.

I failed the very first test as Mark’s mentor, as we struggled through the week, and as frustration eventually got the best of me.  I didn’t model very well being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and in remembering that flesh and blood are not our enemies – but forces of much more conniving and forceful and yes diabolical nature.

It started with a rental car which our 5’7 inch 150 pound friend found quite snug with the seat all the way back! (So you can imagine Mark and I trying to wear it!) Then there was the perfect weather – well the numbers matched perfectly – 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity.  Add in every class we moved from was on the 2nd or third floor with the stairwells without any airflow.  Toss in a number of irritating moments, like losing paperwork and forms multiple times. And cap it off with a mind-number eleven hour journey home including a challenge with TSA, weather delays, missed connections, and airport staff who seemed to delight in causing us problems!  One of us, on a conveyer belt bringing us from one terminal to another mentioned the passage in James… “count it all joy when you endure..” except we couldn’t even find that quote funny.  We were done, we were beat, and we lost sight of God’s incredible blessings of the week, or the people He brought us into contact with…including the divorced doctor going to see his son, and the foreign student who Mark and I had the opportunity to share God’s love with, on the first leg of our journey.

I have to confess that I struggled not to see the ticket agent as my enemy.  Knowing I was preaching on this very passage, I gave up the opportunity to be a blessing to her, and to be an example on dealing with frustrations for Mark.

I had lost the war… or so I believed, as I shared with Vicar Mark that we needed to remember the incredible blessings, even as Satan and His demons, NOT DELTA, was trying to distract us from the grace we know so well!  The goal isn’t to beat us up, but to do whatever is necessary to pull us away from Jesus, and then into the bondage of sin!

So where is our armor?

         

I am convinced that a great deal of spiritual warfare begins and ends with simply distracting us from Jesus.  Whether it is causing us frustration or anxiety, getting us to be burdened by guilt or shame, causing us to repress our feelings, or giving into sin, the goal is the same – the people of God will struggle if we are weakened by forgetting the presence of God in which we dwell!  That’s why one of the first tactics is to indicate that we don’t need to be gathered together around God’s mercy and love, poured out on us through His word and Sacrament.

Look at the weapons we are to take up – they lead us – each and every one of the weapons, to Jesus – and His work in our lives.

We start the belt of Truth! Back then a belt girds and strengthens us for the run, think of the kind of belt a weight lifter or stockroom worker uses..   John 14:6 tells us Jesus is the Truth – and so our first weapon, strengthening our endurance is given to us, as we dwell in Christ!

The Breastplate of Righteousness –  as we read Romans 3-5, and we find that which protects our heart is Jesus. The second tool of the battle is the righteousness, for in Him and through Him we are found righteous, and free from the sin which so easily subverts us!

The shoes, the incredible shoes that were put on, ready to go out and share the gospel of peace!  Again, the focus is on being in Christ, for in Him, there is the peace that passes all understanding!

The helmet that keeps our mind safe and secure, just as the breastplate kept our heart safe- our salvation – which is found again, as we live in Jesus Christ, it is His work in our lives!  Does it sound familiar that our heart is guarded and our head is guarded as we journey in peace?  This is a common theme for Paul, the blessing of our being united in Christ Jesus!

Lastly the sword, the Word of God, the words which cut open our sin-plagued heart and exorcises the sin – not just a weapon to attack and stab with, but a tool to use for healing as well!  What an incredible thing Jesus does in our lives!

Used in

          Prayer –

 

It is amazing, that as Paul focuses us on these weapons, the tools of our faith, the emphasis isn’t really on the war, but on realizing that we dwell in Christ!  That is why he naturally moves from realizing what God has done, to communicating with God in prayer and supplication!

You see, that’s where we find our strength – not in our own maturity, but rather in communion with the Creator of all!  That means, trusting in Him, we do lay every burden down, we bring Him into every situation! We trust Him not only with our life, but with the people we pray for! We trust Him with the lives of those for whom we “intercede” as we bring before the God that loves us.  We know that as He takes them from our hands into His heart, the care will be there… that all things will work for good for them, for those who are loved and called into the very relationship we have with God!

A war against principalities and the cosmic powers of the present darkness means we realize that so many are still held in bondage – bondage to that which causes fear and guilt and share and anxiety!

Our war isn’t with them, it is to free them, as it was Paul’s vocation and prayer as well.

Think about these last verses,

“making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel!

As we consider where we are in Christ, we realize they mystery is revealed completely!  What we’ve been saved to, the peace, of heart and mind! The peace of knowing real truth that God has cleansed us and freed us of that which poisons our lives! We realize our battle is to free those who were bound as we have been, whose life is missing that peace.

The funny thing, I said above that I was shocked at what a poor example I was, but perhaps the example that was needed is not that I reacted badly to the stress of the day and the burdens of the week – but instead that having sinned, I found the strength that cleanses our sins, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus….

For that is our combat lesson.  AMEN?

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